February 11, 2012

An open-door policy

If I sin, particularly repeatedly with a specific sin, and get away with it without any sense of rebuke or remorse, then I’ve good reason to suspect that I might not be a genuine Christian.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (Hebrews 12:6)
My tendency is to apply this verse to someone else, to the people I know who claim to belong to God, but who live as if He does not exist. How can they be part of His family if He never scolds them for their disobedience? 

Yet I cannot legitimately do that. For one reason, how can I know if God is speaking to another person about their sin? Sometimes He speaks to me and there is no visible response or reaction. How then can I know what is going on in the hearts of others? While there may be clues, the best attitude is that I apply verses like this to myself. 

Another passage says the same thing. This one is obviously for believers, yet part of it often is misapplied to those who do not know God.
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:19–22)
The image of Jesus knocking at the door of someone’s heart is used in salvation messages, but the source of this image is Jesus knocking and seeking admission into the lives of those who are in the church. We sin and need to repent. Instead of having close fellowship with God, our relationship with Him is marred by our lack of zeal to change our ways. It is these that God reproves and disciplines. It is to His own that He gives such attention and the invitation to let Him back into our lives.

In the big picture, the New Testament indicates that if believers have their lives in order, God uses us to reach those outside His family. In history, revival in the church precedes revival in the community. Those God loves, those who are already His children, are the first to be corrected. He wants His family life in order. This means that my interaction with Him and with other believers is to be pure and true. When our fellowship is sweet, I reign with Him, conquer sin with Him, and sit in heavenly places with Him. When I act like Jesus Christ, I am living out my sonship and demonstrating that I am a child of God. 

Yet none of this can happen without His rebuke and chastening. No one can discipline themselves into godliness. Our best efforts apart from Christ simply fail. Actually, without Christ my efforts are almost non-existent and certainly made with selfish motives. Being godly isn’t appealing because being godly requires saying no to me, myself and I. Apart from Christ, this holds no appeal.

Chastening can be a mild thing, like an elbow in the ribs. If I don’t listen, it can become stronger, more like a hit with a two by four. Sometimes God uses adverse circumstances to get my attention, or the words or the life of someone else. Or He might use consequences. Whatever the tool, the Holy Spirit is always involved and I become aware that He is knocking. I also become aware that I am missing that fellowship described by eating a meal with Him. When these things happen, there is only one cure.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
God makes my part easy. When I do it, He does the rest. Confession is opening the door and letting Him come in.

Lord, when my fellowship with You is sweet and complete, I cannot imagine why I would push You away by wanting my own way and doing my own thing. Nothing makes less sense. Sin is never been rational, yet selfishness, when indulged, has its allure. In this life, the battle will continue. My biggest need at the moment is remembering to apply these verses about chastening to myself and not use them to judge others or to determine who is Your child and who is not. The important thing is that I keep short accounts with You, and by so doing, keep that door wide open.

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